In spite of my curmudgeonly attitude I have to say that Ohio University does not really deserve the "party school" reputation it seems to have garnered for itself--forget about the rioting twice per year and on major holidays, like football Saturday, overall Athens is a very quiet town and the OU campus is a beautiful and scholarly place. It's probably like this in most college towns: there's always some small subset of the student population that gets in with the "wrong crowd", and these are the folks who are the partiers. Possibly there are more partiers here than at other comparable campuses, but even so I imagine we're talking about no more than 5% of the student body on a campus of 16,000.
But those rabble-rousers sure do get themselves into the news a lot. They are a very irritating bunch in some ways, because not only are they doing their best to ruin Ohio University's reputation, they are also doing their best to ruin their own lives. They are alcoholic know-nothings, the sort of people who think it's cool to blow off studying and for whom taking classes is more of a burden than a privilege. When I think back on how hard I had to work to keep my grades up so that I could keep the meagre scholarships that were paying my way through college (although based on grades they were not "merit" scholarships in the ordinary sense, but were rather based on economic need) I confess to being more than a little irritated by the attitude on display among these folks. And of course there are other students who could not get into Ohio University because these slobs took a slot that could have gone to a more serious-minded student, and that is an injustice. Their behavior is like going to an open market where a hungry homeless person is asking for money, and buying a nice piece of fresh fruit, taking one bite of it, and then throwing it on the ground in front of the homeless person before grinding it to a pulp under foot.
For reasons that are mysterious to me, a large plurality of these "students" wind up living in rental houses on Mill Street, which runs right past the two Catholic churches in town. In fact there are only two kinds of buildings on Mill Street: Catholic churches and rental properties rented by students. No single family dwellings, no businesses. Mill Street runs east-west, and Saint Paul's Catholic Church is at the extreme western end, and Christ the King University Parish is near the eastern end. We have them surrounded, so to speak.
In between lies the Athenian version of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of the "partying" that happens in Athens happens here, on the part of Mill Street that runs between St. Paul's and Christ the King. (There is a connecting street, Palmer Street, near Christ the King, that is also a major party zone.)
All of this is why this Sunday will be very interesting to me. This Sunday our deanery, Nativity Deanery of the Diocese off Steubenville, will celebrate the closing of the Year of the Eucharist in a special way. It will begin with Mass at St. Paul's at 11:00, followed by a Eucharistic Procession down Mill Street from St. Paul's to Christ the King, where there will be Benediction, Adoration, and more.
Let me be clear about this. We're talking about a Eucharistic Procession, with priests, altar servers, THE BISHOP OF STEUBENVILLE, and many Roman Catholics from around the diocese. This is going to be a party that will put other Mill Street parties to shame.
Did I mention that this Saturday is Homecoming?
Homecoming has not been one of the traditional "Major Party Times" here in Athens, but it is becoming a bigger party every year, and this year, with Frank Solich doing his time in Purgatory here, I expect Mill Street will be rather crowded on Saturday night, and that a lot of the local residents will be sleeping in on Sunday. I only wish I could see some of their faces when they wake up and look out their windows. Assuming they're not still too drunk to open their eyes on the daylight.
Athens is in Appalachia, and the region is not without its Christian community; but Athens itself is thoroughly pagan. There are Christian churches, of course, a Jewish synagogue, and an Islamic Center (I don't think it counts as a "mosque" in the technical sense, but we do have a substantial Muslim community here). And many students are at least nominally Christian. But by and large religious belief here is of the kookiest variety, with every bizarre superstition you can imagine represented. A Eucharistic Procession is just what this place needs.
Some might question the value of such an event, however, on the grounds that it will only bring scorn upon Our Lord. There will be mockers, there will be jeers and taunts. Maybe that kind of thing will be marginal; perhaps most will look on out of curiosity, or even join in. That would be great: a "teaching moment", as they say. But even if the majority decide to ridicule what they see, it will be no different from what He experienced at His Passion, and it is only fitting that those in the Procession pray and offer penance for this treatment of Our Lord, a small act of reparation for His suffering long ago on the Via Crucis.
When you get right down to it, there can be no down side to this event.